Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Manic Pixie Dream Girls — Christy LeMire’s Top Five

posted by Nell Minow

I am so happy that Christy Lemire, former movie critic for AP, now has her own website and I look forward to checking in often to see what she has to say.  One of her first posts is about the popular concept of the “manic pixie dream girl,” first described in those terms by critic Nathan Rabin in discussing the Kirsten Dunst character in the Cameron Crowe film, “Elizabethtown.”  This is the female character who represents the Life Force, adorkably quirky and given to spontaneous outbursts and impulsive childlike whims.

I’m not as bothered by the manic pixie dream girl as some people.  For one thing, the idea of a Life Force changing the direction of a play-by-the-rules type has been around as long as there have been stories.  The conflict between characters representing the id and superego has been played out endlessly, going back to ancient myths and fairy tales.  Screwball comedies like “Bringing Up Baby” and “Nothing Sacred” are classic examples, and yet no one calls Katharine Hepburn or Carole Lombard manic pixie dream girls.  Of course there are manic pixie dream boys as well — think of William Holden in “Picnic,” Melvin Douglas in “Ninotchka” and “Theodora Goes Wild,” and Burt Lancaster in “The Rainmaker.” Even the dull Vince Vaughn movie “The Internship” this summer featured a Life Spirit character who had to show the overly serious Rose Byrne how to find joy in life.

And I’d much rather watch a manic pixie dream girl than her far less interesting counterpart, the arrested development boy-man so often portrayed by Adam Sandler and the entire Judd Apatow repertory company.  Vince Vaughn’s “Internship” character counts twice because he was also in the arrested development category. Even worse is the female character often matched with those perpetual pubescents, the  thankless role of the “Johnny, when will you grow up?” nanny/schoolmarm types. I felt very bad for Mila Kunis in “Ted,” a very talented comic actress who was relegated to that overdone character.

Christy Lemire lists five of her favorite manic pixie dream girls.  Mine include Jane Fonda in “Barefoot in the Park,” Katharine Hepburn in “Bringing Up Baby,” Goldie Hawn in “Cactus Flower” and “Butterflies are Free,” Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Stranger than Fiction” (bonus points for making her not so stereotypically free-spirited that she can’t still be a meticulous and organized small business owner), and Barbara Stanwyck in “The Lady Eve.”

YouTube Preview Image

Nathan Rabain apologizes for coining the term here.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Toby Clark

    On this subject, the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels by Nagaru Tanigawa and subsequent anime adaptation are worth a look, though its brand of comedic sociopathy, especially her behaviour toward Mikuru, isn’t for all tastes.

    • Nell Minow

      I am intrigued by the concept of comedic sociopathy, but I suppose all disrupters have that subversive anarchic quality. Thanks, Toby!

Previous Posts

Interview: Joseph Nasser of "Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway"
Reserve Police Officer Joseph Nasser produced Amber Alert: Terror on the Highway to help raise awareness of the Amber Alert system. It stars Tom Berenger as a man on the edge, making a dead rush for Mexico and kidnapping two young girls along the way. He is hotly pursued by police chief Martha Geig

posted 8:00:33am Jul. 28, 2014 | read full post »

"Guardian of the Galaxy's" Awesome Mixtape
One of the many pleasures of "Guardians of the Galaxy," opening this week, is the soundtrack featuring some 70's classics from an "Awesome Mixtape" played by Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt).  Here are some of the highlights. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede [youtube]http://www.youtub

posted 8:00:21am Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Comic-Con 2014: Day 2
Day 2 of Comic-Con included: an interview with "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2" screenwriter Thunder Levin, a buggy lunch with Boxtrolls, press events with the directors and casts of four films, and appearing on the Rotten Tomatoes panel, where each attendee was given a paddle with a ripe tomato on on

posted 10:04:47pm Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Thank You! This Site is 19 Years Old This Week!
It seems like yesterday, but it was 19 years ago this week that I first began writing reviews online as The Movie Mom®.  Anyone remember Prodigy?  The first appearance of my website was via the Sears-owned online service, so long ago it does not even turn up in Wayback searches.  At the time, we

posted 3:59:49pm Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Dan Cohen of "Alive Inside"
Dan Cohen is the gifted and passionately committed man who transforms the lives of people with dementia and other severely debilitating diseases.  He is featured in the documentary "Alive Inside." He is the founder of Music and Memory, which provides resources to help bring these programs to peopl

posted 8:00:36am Jul. 26, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.